As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on worldwide and here in Singapore, the implementation of social distancing measures and restrictions on the local restaurant scene has meant a new normal where dining is concerned. Our editor Daniel Goh explores the rise in the use of DIY meal kits at home.
If your experience is anything like mine, trying to land a reservation at our favourite restaurant in recent days hasn’t been the easiest task. Ever since circuit breaker measures ended last week, people have been rushing to dine out at their favourite restaurants every opportunity they can.
It’s not just the crowds. Stricter measures placed on dining at restaurants and bars means reduced seating capacity, as well as impacting normal operations – queuing for temperature taking, for example, or kitchens double-checking or triple-checking vectors of possible contaminations.
Dining out, as we once knew it, no longer exists.
Things have changed in the home front too. The enforced lockdown over the past three months have completely disrupted domestic routines; while more people are cooking and eating at home, even the act of trying pick up groceries has become a nightmare. Where once it was easy to simply waltz into the nearest supermarket to pick up some ingredients for the evening meal, that now requires stringent contact tracing check-ins followed by Ninja Warrior-level dodging to avoid other less discriminate shoppers.
Do It Yourself – making a meal out from DIY meal kits.
What’s interesting to witness over the past few months though was how some creative food businesses have been pivoting their models to adapt to the new normal.
Aside from offering food deliveries, some restaurants began to put together DIY meal kits. Essentially prepackaged packages of prepared ingredients that come with a recipe, these DIY kits allows you to put together a version of the restaurant’s signature dishes at home. Italian restaurants like Cicheti and Amò, for example, offer DIY pizza and pasta kits. Japanese restaurant Noka has one for sushi handrolls, while brewery restaurant LeVeL33 even has kits for steaks and fish.
Outfits like Da Paolo and So France both launched their online delivery portals during the circuit breaker period, offering consumers not only prepared hot meals, but also a wide spectrum of deli products and ready-to-cook packs for home consumption.
TV dinners have also made a comeback. British retailer Marks & Spencer too recognised that need in the market, and recently expanded its food section to include many such ready-to-cook items to make it easier to dine at home.
Even wholesalers have gotten into the act; Bakeri Singapore – which supplies baked goods to the restaurant trade – started to offer its pastries and bread direct to consumers.
Eating out will continue to play a majority part in the Singapore dining experience now that restrictions have been relaxed. But what’s also become clear is that there are now many different ways to dine at home if one so chooses, whether it’s putting together your own pizza with your kids using a kit from Amò or just lounging over Netflix with a heated boxed meal from Marks & Spencer.
One of our favourite casual Italian restaurants, Amò by Michelin starred restaurateur-chef Beppe De Vito is best known for its contemporary takes on classic Italian favourites. During Singapore’s circuit breaker period it launched its “ItaliAmò” series of fun and fuss-free DIY pizza and pasta kits for home delivery to help bring out the Italian culinary matriarch in you.
There are three pizza kits and four pasta kits altogether; the basic San Marzano DOP Tomato Pizza Kit is possible the most flexible of the lot where you almost build your pizza from scratch and allows you to be creative with additional toppings, while you’re likely to swoon over the results from your decadently-delicious Luxurious Truffle Mushrooms pasta kit. Amò has even put together videos on how to easily make those pizzas at home; we’re impressed by its special kitchen hack on cooking your pizza on the stovetop with a pan.
You can order Amò’s “ItaliAmò” pizza and pasta kits here.
Homegrown wholesale artisanal bakery operation Bakeri Singapore offers a swathe of baked goods on its online store that stock all kinds of ready-to-eat products. These range from sourdough bread loaves and ciabatta for making sandwiches at home, to dessert items such as sweet pastries and cakes.
But Bakeri also carries a range of DIY baking kits suitable for new baking enthusiasts that come with all the necessary ingredients and instructions to put a recipe together. These convenient kits – such as the Cheddar and Herbs Bread and Fudgy Walnut Brownie – are perfect for those who don’t have time to source ingredients separately, or those looking to teach their children a fun way to bake at home.
You can find out more about Bakeri Singapore’s offerings here.
Italian restaurant Cicheti Group has assembled together some of the favourites across its group – Cicheti, along with Bar Cicheti and Caffe Cicheti – available for home delivery that’s perfect for a stay in family-sized party or even a romantic date at home. You’re looking at the likes of packages such as the family-friendly Classic Cicheti Pizza Party or Lady & The Tramp Date Night, that’s perfect for pasta-loving lovebirds, or a range of their signature pizzas and pastas.
But Cicheti also offers a number of DIY kits that you can order to put together your own meal. There’s the basic DIY Margherita Pizza Kit which you can easily use to build up a pizza with your own toppings. The Pici Cacio e Pepe from Bar Cicheti takes a bit of skill and will require a keen eye and a great sense of timing, but the flavours are out of this world. And if your cellar has run out, Cicheti head sommelier Ronald Kamiyama has put together a small but cohesive list of wines on the takeaway that is sure to pair well with their eats.
You can order Cicheti’s delivery offerings and DIY meal kits here.
One of the best known Italian names in the Singapore dining scene, Da Paolo started as a modest trattoria in 1989 and has since grown to an island-wide chain serving up many Italian favourites.
Da Paolo recently launched its online delivery portal, and offers not only hot food from its flagship restaurant in Dempsey, but also offers a wide range of deli products, baked goods and premium groceries from its Gastronomia gourmet boutiques. Their family-sized Carbonara Pasta Tray and Beef Lasagna Tray can each feed upwards of 10 people (with leftovers), while those who live alone may opt to stock up on their fresh ready meals like Baked Quinoa Falafel & Broccoli or Chicken & Mushroom Lasagna for the week.
And for those who love their tipples, Da Paolo Gastronomia offers cocktails for delivery too.
You can find Da Paolo’s online delivery portal here.
Brewery restaurant LeVeL33 is best known for offering some splendid views of Singapore’s waterfront and skyline while you’re sipping on their house-made beers, but we’ve been really impressed with their beer-inspired food offerings as well. Since the circuit breaker period began it had offered a specially-curated food takeaway and delivery menu that offered ready meals, as well as a number of ready-to-cook meal kits that you can conveniently put together in the kitchen yourself.
A number of signatures from its main dining menu, such as the Spent Grain Linguine and Seabass with Risotto has been converted into DIY meal kits. The L33 Steak with Pepper Sauce Kit – featuring a fiery peppercorn sauce – is a great choice for carnivores. These kits require basic competence in the kitchen – you’ll need to know how to properly sear the fish and steak, for example.
If that sounds like too much trouble, go for their ready-to-eat meals such as their ever-popular LeVeL33 Brewery Burger. Make sure you throw in a couple of LeVeL33 beers into your order cart as well.
You can order LeVeL33’s prepared meals and DIY meal kits here.
Marks & Spencer
We always made it a point to drop into British retailer Marks & Spencer’s food section whenever we pass by – they have an amazing selection of wines and beers exclusive to their outlets – which has been near impossible to do during these coronavirus-impacted days. It’s a lot easier now – Marks & Spencer recently tied up with foodpanda to deliver its range of foodstuffs and other staples across Singapore.
In fact, Marks & Spencer recently expanded its range of premium food and drink selections to almost 300 offerings, including a range of convenient DIY meals perfect for that lazy weekday night. You’re looking at options like Macaroni Cheese, Chicken Arrabbiata, and even Chicken Tikka Masala & Rice that you simply heat up in the oven or over a stove. Sure they really are just fancy TV dinners, but trust us you’d be glad to have these in your fridge when the munchies strike late at night.
You can order from Marks & Spencer via the Foodpanda app or website.
Casual yet chic Japanese restaurant Noka by Open Farm Community is best known for sourcing and leveraging locally grown farmed produce in its Japanese dishes. Aside from ordering its inventive dishes for home delivery, Noka also offers a couple of DIY kits for you to assemble at home.
There’s the Hand-Roll Sushi Set if you fancy assembling some hand-rolls using premium Japanese bluefin tuna, salmon, and other choice produce. For the less culinary inclined, the Japanese winter favourite street food that is Oden is a lot easier to handle; just pop the vacuumed bag into boiling water, cut and pour it into a bowl, and voila, a hot, satisfying meal.
You can order Noka’s ready-to-eat meals and DIY kits here.
Praelum Wine Bistro
Most wine enthusiasts in Singapore would have heard of Praelum Wine Bistro, the wine bar that pretty much all oenophiles go on a regular basis, and where many local sommeliers cut their teeth. But what some may not know is that Praelum is home to some excellent eats as well; interestingly, it has also been providing some of its crowd favourites pre-packaged in vacuum bags for consumption at home.
You’re looking at the likes of its ever-popular Alsatian-style Tarte Flambée topped with a variety of ingredients that’s already assembled; just rip off the wrapping and pop these into the oven for a bit to complete the cooking. We’re big fans of the Braised Angus Beef Cheeks and Smoky Back Ribs as well; just drop these bags into a pot of hot water to heat up. Pair these with the buttery Roasted Garlic & Butter Mash Potatoes – and your choice of wine for a warm, comforting meal.
What we really like about these conveniently meal kits is that they’re packed for easy storage, and can keep for months in the freezer until required.
You can order Praelum Wine Bistro’s pre-packed DIY meal kits here.
We’re big fans of bistro-epicerie So France at Duo Galleria – which combines a bistro, a bakery, and a grocery section selling all manner of French produce – especially when it comes to casual French dining. When it launched its online delivery portal, it opened up a myriad of possibilities for casual French dining at home. Sure you can always swing by and pick up some ready meals from its bistro section, but now you can simply order some premium deli produce online and have it delivered to your home for a quick meal.
Even better, So France offers a small but well-curated range of pre-packaged, ready-to-cook housemade dishes that – like TV dinners – can be easily stored in your freezer and pulled out for a family when you need them. Their Braised Beef Cheeks features tender slow-cooked beef chunks on the most unctuous mashed potatoes, while the authentic Coq Au Vin is good for two. Be sure to add some wines from its well-stocked selection to pair with these eats.
You can order these from So France’s delivery portal here.
Singapore’s favourite natural wine bar Wine RVLT was mostly closed during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, but reopened at its tail end to offer its tasty grub via home delivery. Wine RVLT’s “Makan Kits” are a mix of its crowd favourites from past and present, conveniently packaged with semi-prepared ingredients that you heat up and assemble at home.
Take for example its Patty Melt, once an off-menu weekend item that in-the-know regulars looked forward to, as well as the umami-laden Uni Fettucine drenched in an uni butter.
These kits takes a little kitchen know-how and some multi-tasking to properly put together, but results are worth it. Oh, and make sure you pair these with some wines from their wine delivery service Raw Wine SG.
You can order Wine RVLT’s Makan kits here.
Thai-Chinese seafood restaurant Yaowarat Seafood recently launched Yak Kin!, Singapore’s first Thai-Japanese yakiniku delivery concept. Yak Kin! is an island-wide delivery service brings to you a range of fresh and marinated meats and seafood for you to barbecue at home. Each delivery comes with a range of delicious dipping sauces, and if you need, a disposable portable grill (for a price).
For a family meal, sets such as the Premium Mixed Set and Deluxe Mixed Set is your best bet if you like variety, offering beef short plate, kurobuta pork jowl, and scallops etc among others for your self-grilling pleasure. But you can also go for an ala-carte option and pick what you want; we highly recommend you include the very well-seasoned Wagyu Mini Patties if it’s not already in your set.
You can order Yak Kin! here.